The Matrix: Path of Neo
It's Not That The Matrix: Path Of Neo is bad. It's that it's sooooo bad. Really, really awful. There are amateur Matrix-themed game mods out there that are better. Supposedly taking you through all three films, but mostly just taking you through the fights, the game follows Neo as he slowly becomes The One and learns how to hit people in slow motion. And it's appalling. Truly appalling. Yes the fights can be action-packed, but the effect is totally destroyed when the camera swings around behind a wall and obscures your view whichever way you swing it, or you have to fight through a tiresomely protracted and boring level just because the save checkpoints are stupidly placed, or as soon as you see the shocking, shocking graphics for god's sake... And don't get me started on the all-new ending. In fact, save yourself the effort and download the movies online. Yes it's real and yes, it's that, that bad.
The whole package screams 'rushed' at you, although for what reason I can only guess. It's a bad console port that feels as though it's been chucked out the door with no thought, care or consideration. Why do I have to choose my language and reset my key configurations every time I load up (we have hard drives that let games remember that sort of thing)? Why do I have to mess with an .INI file in the installation folder to change the video resolution?
Hero To Zero
What I find funniest/most heart-breaking about this whole scenario is that I've been reading reviews elsewhere and everyone seems to be going out of their way to be as generous as possible while still listing all of the above problems. Mid-table scores, occasional seven out of tens (and even a reprehensibly misleading 9.5/10 from one website - once again proving that game reviews should be left to the professionals) - it's like people just can't bring themselves to accept the truth here: The Matrix: Path Of Neo is an irredeemable abortion of a game that Atari, Shiny, the Wachowski brothers and anyone even remotely associated with it should be ashamed for ever thinking about releasing in this form.
Download The Matrix: Path of Neo
Let's pretend Enter the Matrix (or the last two flicks) never happened. Aren't you psyched to play as Neo?
Hold off on swallowing the blue pill--you may actually want to see how deep this rabbit hole goes. No, seriously. Unlike ETM, Path of Neo has the style and substance of today's top action games. Playing through the famous lobby scene from the first movie was almost too intense--gunshots caused chunks of marble to fill the atmosphere, leading me to soar through the air, capping enemies near and far (in bullet-time, of course). It only got better during a slick training mission in which Neo sliced and diced foes with a katana in a snowy field straight outta an old samurai movie. Some janky camera issues threatened to neutralize the fun, but it's nothing that can't be ironed out before release.
I'll admit it; I'm a big fan of the Matrix films. I felt a little let down by ReloadedD and Revolutions, but I still thought they were great, complex explorations of the Matrix universe, philosophy and all. Sadly, all of the Matrix titles released so far have been less then worthy. Enter the Matrix was fun for a few hours, but suffered from major problems, and The Matrix Online hasn't come across as strongly as some of us would've liked. Unfortunately, this same pattern holds true with Path of Neo. This game is riddled with small problems that I would've liked to see dealt with, but it is simply such a good execution of both gameplay and source material that I could really care less about what is wrong with it.
First, the gameplay is so cool as to go on my list of 'games that make you feel cool'. Advent Rising and kill.switch, also suffering from their own problems, managed to accomplish this goal and are now joined by Path of Neo, as I can now play as Neo, fighting hundreds of Agent Smiths. Although there is little in way of fighting control, as you've only got two strike buttons, Shiny has created a truly context sensitive environment. Featuring an amazing array of moves captured from the films or designed by Shiny, these fights are stunningly first-class. In particular I loved playing through the scenes that recreate film moments, like the aerial battle from Revolutions, where I could charge at Smith and create the massive bubbles of force that show off their titanic strikes. Or like the moment in Reloaded when Neo grabs a steel pole and proceeds to smash, crash, bash, and crush his way through the various Smith clones. Some of the 'extension' scenes in between those moments can drag on, but the effect is so minor I can't really call that a flaw.
What I can call a flaw are the graphics. They're great, they look stunning at times, but it is so obvious that they try to accomplish too much with too little. I'd love to see this game as an Xbox 360 title just to see how amazing it could look. Also, there's a few small gameplay bugs, like the fact that sometimes you can't target away from a dead enemy while using guns, or the audio, which at times seems nonexistent or balanced totally improperly. In all fairness, for the audio portion of the game, I wish they'd have licensed more of the content from the films, so that I could've fought the Burly Brawl to the music composed by Don Davis and Juno Reactor.
Path of Neo is, in my opinion, an impressive accomplishment. On one hand, it is the youngest child in a family of games that have received critical disdain. In addition it shows that heritage with a series of small flaws that don't seem appropriate for a high caliber title. On the other hand, this game is downright awesome. It is fun to play, lasts you a good ten hours or so, and with the addition of various unlockables and other options, it is worth playing again. Not to mention the fact that playing Neo is simply addictive. He is The One, after all. When you've got a chance to kick as much ass as he does, and look cool doing it, how can you not love that?
You have no idea how long I've been waiting to say that. Though the Matrix franchise has flourished on the big screen, it has had less than impressive appearances in the gaming world. Enter the Matrix had little else but hype to its name and The Matrix Online' well, let's just not mention that at all.
The Matrix: Path of Neo, like the character Neo himself, breaks the vicious cycle, and provides for an entertaining experience, if not resoundingly so.
The Matrix: Path of Neo, like the title implies, places you in the shoes of Neo, closely following the events of the movie. You'll participate in all the major fights, from squaring off with Morpheus in a virtual dojo to fending off 100's of Mr. Andersons. It's all standard action-faire, with combos and weapons and the like, but it's executed smoothly, the exception being the flawed targeting system which can be a frustration to manipulate properly. Countering that, however, is the ultimately stylish nature of the game. It makes easily executed combos look absolutely stunning, ensuring that you'll probably have a few 'Whoa'? moments throughout the 10-12 hours of gameplay.
However, how much enjoyment you reap out will largely depend on how much you actually enjoyed the movies. Path of Neo basically recounts scene after scene from the movie - minus the heady philosophical tripe - so if you had issues with the movies, then chances are the game will do little to change your mind.
That said, if you did enjoy the movies, there's a lot to see in The Matrix: Path of Neo. There's a level of immersion that's created flawlessly through the often sharp visuals and impeccable sound, and if I weren't the observant type, I'd be sure I was in the Matrix myself. Check it if you dig action games with style over substance or the Matrix movies.